EDMONTON—New federal research has confirmed that water from vast oilsands tailings ponds is leaching into groundwater and seeping into Alberta’s Athabasca River.
Previous studies using models have estimated the leakage at 6.5 million litres a day from a single pond.
But the Environment Canada study used new technology to actually fingerprint the mix of groundwater chemicals in the area.
It found the mix of chemicals from tailings is different from that in naturally occurring bitumen deposits.
That tailings mix, which contains toxic chemicals, is found in groundwater around mining operations, but not in areas away from development.
It’s also found in groundwater just underneath the Athabasca River.
The study, conducted under a new federal-provincial oilsands monitoring program, was accepted for publication in late January by the journal Environmental Science and Technology.